Official Star Wars Autographs & Photos Now Offered by Lucasfilm, Topps & MLB Division Partnership

Official Star Wars 16×20 framed photo signed by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. $1,049

Disney’s Lucasfilm, Topps and Major League Baseball’s Authenticators, Inc. subsidiary launched Star Wars Authentics, starwarsauthentics.com, on December 21, offering witnessed autographed photos of Star Wars actors, and official unsigned Star Wars photos. The launch follows the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Authenticators, Inc. and Topps have prior Disney connections. Authenticators is run by Major League Baseball, and Disney just made a billion dollar investment in their BAM Tech subsidiary. Topps is partially owned by Tornante, a company owned by Michael Eisner, the former chairman of Disney.

“We identified a hole in the entertainment industry, a need for certified authentic pieces for the Star Wars brand, and with this collaboration we are able to meet consumer demand. Topps excels in visual arts and printing technologies and we are thrilled to bring our expertise to Star Wars, building upon our trading card and Major League Baseball memorabilia business.” said David Leiner, Topps’ General Manager and Vice President of the North American Sports and Entertainment division. [Read more…]

Tom Gregory: Collecting Hollywood’s Stories

By KIMBERLY COLE
Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Autograph

UPDATE: RR Auction is selling Tom Gregory’s vintage Hollywood Signed Photo collection from December 8 – December 15. There are over 250 signed photos in the auction. We only had room to feature eight in this article from the March 2010 issue of Autograph. View the entire collection at RRAuction.com

Don’t miss this new video with Tom Gregory about his collection.

Tom Gregory in his eye-catching gallery of Classic Hollywood signed portraits.

Tom Gregory in his eye-catching gallery of Classic Hollywood signed portraits. Photo by Patricia Williams

“Lucy, I’m ho-ome!” The driver’s voice booms out of the tinny speakers on the small green and white bus. The tourists’ laughter is lost in the sudden roar of a leaf blower. A gardener directs the flurry of leaves away from me as I stumble up the walkway to Tom Gregory’s front door. I’m distracted because I’m not sure my batteries will last the interview, I’ve had to dig through my trunk for a ragged notepad—and I’m late. 

The home before me is daunting. I knew the address was in Beverly Hills, but I hadn’t expected this double-lot estate. I should have dressed better.

Tom Gregory is a good looking man with intense dark-framed glasses and short-cropped silvering hair. His engaging manner puts me immediately at ease. He gives me a tour of the house. The foyer’s grand, circular staircase is the starting point for a journey no tourist ever gets to travel. Tom takes me through exquisitely decorated and restored rooms, up one staircase and down another. I get a quick glimpse of a bathroom with lighted alabaster floors. The Golden Age of Hollywood has been faithfully restored and lovingly nourished. The house isn’t about wealth or luxury, it’s about staging—creating a setting for a life of elegance and charm in classic Hollywood style. [Read more…]

Taking a bite out of New York’s Big Apple Comic-Con

By David Stone

Where can you see Batman, The Incredible Hulk, Captain Kirk, and baseball legend Yogi Berra all in one room? New York City’s Big Apple Comic-Con! I attended the show at Pier 94 on October 16-18, 2009 . The convention featured over 150 stars in attendance—an autograph lover’s dream come true—including Burt Ward (Batman), Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man), and The Suicide Girls. Over 77,000 comic book, sports and nostalgia fans attended the event. The celebrities were there to greet admirers, reminisce about past works, and most importantly…sign autographs!

The Big Apple Con has been going on since 1996, when it started in a church basement. Over the years the locations and guest rosters have progressed. Just last year the show was purchased by convention giant, Wizard World, and to guarantee its success it booked a large cross-section of celebrities for their first New York show, so there really is something to fit everyone’s taste.

The night before the convention I heard that at least 30,000 people were expected to attend, so to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I left extra early to get a good place in line. After a two-hour wait we were finally allowed into the registration building to get our wristbands. There was a mad rush once the doors opened!

I had hoped to interview some of the celebrities at the show, but unfortunately, the stars either didn’t want to do the interview or were too busy signing autographs. The most disappointing experience I had was from Christopher Knight (Peter Brady). Mr. Knight thought about my request for what seemed to be forever, and then informed me that if he wasn’t making money on this interview then he should be making money selling his photos (which were selling for $20—some of the cheapest at the convention!)

William Shatner

One of the highlights was an appearance by William Shatner (Captain Kirk). Imagine everyone’s disappointment when it was announced that the signing, originally scheduled to last all day, was only going to last for one hour. Naturally, many attendees, myself included, rushed to his spot at Lightspeed Fine Arts’ booth. And just like at sports signings, I couldn’t purchase Mr. Shatner’s autograph directly. I had to get a ticket, sold with the photo of my choice, including $75 for his autograph. There were a variety of photos to choose from, including Star Trek, T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal. Even a shot of him as the Priceline Negotiator! Shatner greeted me warmly, shaking my hand and thanking me for coming to the convention. Despite being rushed with his photo op and Q&A sessions later in the day, he took time with each fan.

Iconic Figures: From Batman to the Incredible Hulk

Another 60s TV icon at Big Apple Con was Batman himself, Adam West. There was a long line going from behind Mr. West’s booth and onto the convention floor itself. Mr. West is another celebrity I heard could be rude and denigrating to fans, but he was exactly the opposite: he joked with us, posed for photos, and of course,signed autographs galore! There were a variety of Batman photos available for $50, though I was a bit disappointed Mr. West didn’t have any Family Guy shots available. He’ll probably always be remembered as Batman anyway. So I got a photo taken with him and went on to my next group of stars.

Another highlight of the convention was Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, signing autographs for $25. For an extra fee you could snag handwritten lyrics signed by Mr. Dolenz or an autographed drumhead. I was the only one waiting for him when he arrived at his table, which was surprising. He invited me to look at photos, including a Monkees cast photo. Mr. Dolenz couldn’t have been nicer, even agreeing to an interview later in the day. Unfortunately, when I returned for the interview his agent didn’t allow it to happen. But I still left his table happy, with a beautifully inscribed 8×10.

Another television icon of yesteryear, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), was selling his signed photos for $25. Despite it being slow at his booth, Mr. Ferrigno brushed off my interview request, barely speaking to me while signing the photo. His assistant even asked me to leave! To make up for that unpleasant experience, Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame was more than gracious and kind to each and every fan that came by his table. Mr. Hudson had a large assortment of photos from his many films, selling for $25 each. I asked him what it was like to perform live for President Obama in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone on Broadway when the Obamas were in town. He told me it was the greatest thrill of his professional career and then proceeded to sign a photo inscribed with “Who Ya Gonna Call?” What a nice guy!

Photo Ops

Finally, the main three leads from The Dukes of Hazzard, Catherine Bach, Tom Wopat, and John Schneider, were all selling autographs for $25 apiece. I bought a photo from Mr. Schneider, who is also known for his more recent role on Smallville. Mr. Schneider seemed to be overwhelmed (in a positive way) by the legions of fans stopping by his table. But he handled it all with grace, talking to each fan, asking them their names, and even posing for (gasp!) FREE photo ops! Okay, this is what puzzles me: Why is it that celebrities not only charge for photo ops, but they charge more than for an autograph? As a collector I may be biased, but I will always believe that something written is worth more than a photo. A photo just proves you’ve met the star—there isn’t anything tangible from the star’s effort.

Other celebrities appearing at the show included Billy Dee Williams ($40 for a signed photo), Ric Flair ($50), Dwight Gooden ($30), and Nichelle Nichols ($30). All in all, it was a successful event for me—I only wish I could have been able to share the perspectives of the celebrities with Autograph readers. Hopefully next time around!

Character Actors: Bob Gunton

By SCOTT VOISIN

— Autograph February 2009

Bob Gunton signature

Every actor dreams of finding success in Hollywood, but the lucky few who achieve it often discover a few strings attached.

Just ask Bob Gunton. After gaining attention as part of the original 1979 cast of the Broadway musical Evita, Gunton spent the next 15 years playing a variety of characters in films and television. All of that changed in 1994 with his chilling performance as the warden in The Shawshank Redemption. The good news is that since then, Gunton has been in constant demand to play antagonistic authority figures. The downside, though, is that he’s rarely ever considered for the colorful, off-beat characters he yearns to portray.

Onscreen, Gunton can exude pure menace, but he initially planned to become a priest until the acting bug that bit him in high school refused to let go. “I was in the seminary for two-and-a-half years,” he recalls. “We’d have monthly get-togethers, and I’d do imitations and impersonations. After I left the seminary, I was drafted and went to Vietnam. I had always looked at theater and performing as just a fun thing to do, but when I got back from Vietnam, I decided that the message from my creator was, ‘These are the talents I’ve given you. Get serious about them and really pursue them,’ so I did.”

Bob Gunton in Shawshank Redemption

One of Gunton’s early film roles came in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning 1999 film, Born on the Fourth of July, based on the true story of Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise), a Vietnam vet who becomes an anti-war activist after coming home paralyzed. Although his screen time was minimal, it was a project that Gunton is particularly proud of. “I was very pleased with Born on the Fourth of July,” he says. “I had a special relationship with Oliver, and still do. We’re both Vietnam veterans, and like all Vietnam veterans, we share a bond that goes beyond the business or anything else.”

A few years later, Gunton’s career changed forever when he was asked to read for a movie based on Stephen King’s story, The Shawshank Redemption. “As soon as I read it, I was blown away by the storytelling and the wit of the writing,” he recalls. “I met with (writer/director) Frank Darabont and the producer, Niki Marvin, and it was one of those times where I knew in my guts just who the warden was. I think they saw that I really understood this guy, but then they had to convince the studio.”

These days, Gunton can be seen in the new season of the Fox hit 24, starring Keifer Sutherland. Unlike his work on other TV shows, Gunton admits the series’ real-time format can be difficult to work within. “I shot three days this week and I’ll shoot one day next week, and all of it basically takes place in the same hour on the show,” he says. “You have to hold in your head what the stakes are and what the emotional intensity is, and there’s no place for the character to kind of sit back and reflect. It’s pretty much moving like a freight train all the time, but that’s the thrill of the show, and it has a style that I think is totally unique.”

Bob Gunton

Almost 30 years have passed since Gunton began his acting career, and while he’s happy to be making a living doing what he loves, there’s still some frustration due to Hollywood’s tendency to typecast. “Shawshank Redemption is the biggest and best-known movie that I’ve ever been associated with, and it’s probably the best role I’ve ever done in a major movie,” he says. “That has made some people reluctant to look at me for a comedic role or as someone who’s soft and cuddly. I’m very grateful for ever having done Shawshank, but in a way it’s sort of a burden to carry around, too.”

Like any good actor, Gunton is always looking to challenge both himself and audience perceptions. “Over the last five years or so, I’ve been doing a lot of independent movies,” he says. “I’ve been playing comic characters, off-beat characters and some very loveable and noble characters, which I rarely get to do. I’m a father who rarely gets to play just a lovable, goofy father in a movie, and I’d love to do that. At this time in life, I feel very vulnerable in a lot of ways and I’d like to explore that in a role. Who I am and what I can do could potentially come together and present me with an interesting challenge.”

Kevin Harvick’s Fan Club Gathering

By SCOTT VOISIN

— Autograph February 2009

Kevin Harvick with Sharpies in hands at his seventh annual Fan Club gathering in North carolina in October 2008

Of all the professional sports, nascar is arguably the one that inspires the most passion and loyalty among its fans. With drivers like Kevin Harvick to root for, it’s easy to see why.

Harvick’s success story was born from tragedy. He entered the NASCAR Cup series in 2001 after Dale Earnhardt was killed in a wreck on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Having earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2000’s Busch Series, Harvick was hand-picked by car owner Richard Childress to replace the legendary driver. With Earnhardt’s shadow looming large over the newcomer, Harvick earned immediate respect—and fans. He won his first race in just his third start. But that was only the beginning.

Table of items waiting for Harvick's autograph

Since then, Harvick has compiled an impressive resume both on and off the track. He has won two Busch Series championships, has victories at the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 and he started Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI), an organization where he and his wife, DeLana, are the owners of vehicles in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

As his accomplishments grew, so did his fan base, which led to the creation of the Kevin Harvick Fan Club (www.kevinharvick.com). One of the many perks of membership is the opportunity to meet Kevin in person and obtain an autograph at the annual Fan Club Gathering in North Carolina. While other drivers restrict the number of fans that attend their events, Harvick welcomes each and every one of his members with open arms and a Sharpie in hand. For those who can’t make the party, Harvick gladly signs items through the mail and at the racetrack, ensuring that his faithful supporters leave happy.

Table of items waiting for Harvick's autograph

Harvick’s seventh annual Fan Club Gathering was held this past October, and although rain fell constantly during the chilly evening, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the huge crowd who showed up to meet Kevin and DeLana. Afterward, Kevin took a few minutes for an exclusive interview with Autograph.

Scott Voisin: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?

Kevin Harvick: I’ve signed many cool and interesting things in my lifetime. If I had to pick one it would probably be someone’s leg, shoulder or arm, which they would get turned into a tattoo.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?

A birth certificate. The weird part about the birth certificate is that the boy’s parents named him after me.

When you’re at the track getting ready for a race, is it distracting dealing with autograph seekers?

Hat signed by Delana and Kevin Harvick

I usually just sign while I walk through the garage area, and I usually always sign for kids or anyone that walks beside me while I try to get where I’m going. I don’t sign autographs when the time isn’t right. For example, when I’m talking with Todd Berrier, my crew chief, about the car or when I’m getting ready to get behind the wheel of the car. I feel those are inappropriate times to seek autographs as I’m concentrating on my job.

Is it frustrating to be asked during your off time or do you just accept it as part of the job?

I do get approached while out in public, but that’s part of being a professional athlete. I don’t mind signing an autograph or two for the people who are nice and wait until after I’m done eating or shopping.

A lot of drivers’ fan clubs hold a lottery for fans to attend an event, yet you invite everyone in your club to come out. What made you decide on opening your party to every single member?I don’t think it would be right to hold someone back who is a fan club member. We are very fan-friendly here at KHI. We’ve been doing these gatherings for a while now and they’ve gone very smoothly. It’s incredible to see some of the fans that show up at KHI from all over the country.

members of Harvick's fan club waiting in the rain to meet him

You don’t hear a lot about NASCAR wives, but DeLana is very popular at the gatherings. How did she get involved in the autograph line-up?DeLana has been a very big part of my racing career and always will be. She is very involved with Kevin Harvick, Inc. and many of the fans keep up with DeLana like they keep up with me.

 
 

Delana Harvick signs autographs of her own as she works a Fan Club Gathering booth

 

Does DeLana enjoy stepping into the spotlight during these events?

  

 

I think she does. The Fan Club Gathering gives DeLana and me the opportunity to give back to the fans. She’ll sit and sign autographs and talk to the fans before I arrive.

Have you ever collected autographs?

I do collect autographs. I have Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre signed uniforms, as well as a baseball bat signed by Cal Ripken and a 2007 New York Yankees team-signed jersey.

What bothers you the most about autograph seekers?

I don’t like when people get items signed and turn around and sell them to make a profit.

Have you ever gone on eBay to see what autographed items of yours are being sold and if they’re authentic?

Yes, we have someone who visits not only eBay but other online websites to make sure everything is legit. We’ve come across a few problems in the past, but they were eventually taken care of.

Why is it that NASCAR drivers seem to be more attentive to fans than athletes in other sports?

Harvick recieveing autograph requests

This is the only sport where fans have access to just about everywhere. You can’t go to a football or baseball game and stand outside the locker room waiting for autographs. This is what drives our sport. Fans can walk right up to you almost anytime, and you always want to uphold a good image when it comes to the fans. We understand what makes the sport go round and that’s the fans. We have to thank them for that.